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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Modern Physics and Magic: A Few Words by Valerie Roberts

Hello fellow writers. I’d like to take a few minutes today to talk about modern physics and magic (or magick,  if that’s your preferred spelling).

Now I know you already think I’m crazy, but hang on for a minute. Because I have a few words that I think you might find interesting.
The first one is “fields.”

Specifically, the electromagnetic fields of protons and electrons. They’re why we perceive matter as solid, even though the average atom is mostly empty space.
The not-empty part is a nucleus of protons and neutrons with some number of electrons wandering around at various distances and configurations that can be predicted via quantum mechanics.  The number of electrons depends on the number of protons in the nucleus and the ionic state of the atom.

Molecules are atoms linked together with more empty space between, but they can also merge the fields of their individual atoms to create even stronger fields. 
If you’ve ever tried to stick two “North” ends of bar magnets together (or ridden a mag-lev train), you have an idea of what I’m talking about. The closer together you get the magnets, the stronger the fields become.

What happens when you can negate the EM field of matter? You walk through walls and sink though floors, unless you can also negate a gravitational field and fly. Magic.
The second word is “Phase.”

When light bounces off a surface, the wave (light is both waves and particle streams), the phase of the wave is shifted by 180 degrees.  Now, if you mix two waves of opposite phases, they cancel each other.  From this we get noise-canceling headphones and the possibility of invisibility.
But wait, there’s more.

If you expand the thought to quantum phases, you can end up with the multiverse – different realities that could exist alongside ours, but instead of having possible electron spins of Up and Down, their quantum phase has electron spins of Left and Right.
What happens when two universes occupying the same space but with different quantum phases experience quantum phase drift? Maybe we start seeing things that aren’t really there. Almost like ghosts.

The third word is “entanglement”
Say you have a pair of big particles, like electrons (or even as big as microdiamonds, according to some people), that interact and are then separated.

Now the electrons have a description that is indefinite in terms of stuff like position, momentum, spin, and even polarization; when they interact they adopt opposite spins. Until you look at one to determine its spin, you don’t know what it is. And if you change the spin of an electron that is entangled, you can change the spin of the electron it interacted with, even if that other electron is at the other end of the universe. Magic.
Those are only three of the words that link modern physics to magic. If you want to know some of the others, I’m teaching an online workshop in August through FF&P that explains the concepts without going into the math.

Footnote: The math is weird; it doesn’t use numbers because pretty much nobody knows what the numbers are. Einstein, in his general relativity derivation, divided by zero at least once, which was found by someone else. And he still came up with his famous equation relating energy to mass.
In closing, I want to leave you with a few more words, these from Sir Arthur C. Clarke, the science fiction writer (which is a bit like calling Einstein the patent clerk). This is Clarke’s Third Law, written as a footnote to Clarke’s Second Law in the essay “Hazards of Prophecy: The Failure of Imagination” in the collection Profiles of the Future (added, I believe, in the 1973 edition):  “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

And, lastly, the Roberts (that’s me) corollary to the Third Law: “Why choose?”
Val Roberts Bio

I was born in Boise and received my first paycheck for writing at the age of twelve, for winning a father’s day essay contest. I spent nine years as a Boise State undergraduate before eking out a chemistry degree, but I ended up with enough credits for a PhD…spread across six wildly disparate majors. Now I’m a mild-mannered technical writer for a software company by day. By night, I write science-fiction romance or space opera with sex, depending on your point of view. I still live in Boise, with a Spooky Man as crazy as I am and a small pack of cats and dogs. My second novel, The Valmont Contingency, is coming out from Carina Press October 1, 2012. Links:
Website      Twitter:  @valmroberts

Hosted by
Fantasy-Futuristic & Paranormal
Romance Writers
This 4 week class starts August 6th
For more information click HERE


Mary Vine said...

Good stuff, Val! You amaze me with all your knowledge on the subject. Congrats on your upcoming book!

valroberts said...

Thanks, Mary! You know you can pick my brain any time you want.

Nancy said...

I love the word entanglement, hate math, but my mind is open to 'what if?" Great article. Congrats on your next book.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Val, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
does that mean i don't have to explain, "So long and Thanks for all the fish" references that i use in my stories. or can i just call my mode of spelling "quantum"?

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Val. I enjoyed this!


Nancy J. Cohen said...

Very interesting. It appears we can find an almost logical explanation for any phenomenon.
I remember a line from Babylon 5, I believe: Magic is only advanced technlogy that we don't understand yet.

Margo Carey said...

I love it!

Autumn Shelley said...

Hi Val!
I LOVED this post! I'd love to see more like this on FF&P! It took me 3x to pass college algebra so I have to pass on the math, but the philosophies and concepts of quantum physics are full of possibility! I do have a question though: In reference to entanglement, how can electrons that have been separated still influence one another after separation? Does this imply some type of dark matter/negative space connection?
Just curious.
Great article and I'm looking forward to more!

valroberts said...

That's a good restatement of Clarke's third law. I'll have to find out who said it.

valroberts said...

Don't worry about the math; I've done some of it and at this level, it looks more like an alien language (at least according to my critique partners). Really, it gets so esoteric that people from one branch of string theory to another have difficulty with each other's equations.

The world of quantum mechanics is very strange, at least compared with our everyday experiences.

The reason particles can be entangled is because some of their properties aren't completely defined until you actually measure them.

Entanglement was called "spooky action at a distance" by Einstein (who didn't like it at all), but it's a direct prediction of quantum mechanics, predating the discovery of dark matter by the better part of a century.

Reality is actually a pretty weird place.

Autumn Shelley said...

Thanks Val! The unanswered questions leave plenty of room for artistic license..which is just what I need! ;)